Our Magic Circle correspondent, PAUL SPANIELS, on a disappearing act performed at the borough’s loss-making house-builders
It was a case of “Now you see them, now you don’t”, as the dodgy Google reviews about their employers posted by a handful of staff from Brick by Brick suddenly vanished yesterday, in a puff of virtual smoke.
Inside Croydon highlighted the dodgy practice at the weekend, with BxB staffers Akin Lisk-Carew, Katrina “Kat” Thomas and Claudia Evans identified as employees of Brick by Brick as well as enthusiastic online reviewers of the company.
Now, they are nowhere to be seen. “It’s as if an urgent memo has gone round the firm,” a Katharine Street soource said. “It’s an absolute admission that they know they’ve broken the rules.”
Google’s review guidelines strictly forbid this fakery. “If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer,” they state, categorically.
But times are tough at the loss-making house-builder, which has borrowed £260million from owners Croydon Council since it was formed in 2015, and has yet to report a penny in profit or, according to the council’s auditors, repay any of their loans.
With the hapless BxB CEO Colm Lacey seeking to flog off the company (which is not really his to sell), and following the damning findings of auditors Grant Thornton, it was clear that staff and some close to the company had in the last few weeks tried to “fix” their Google ratings to give the business an enhanced reputation.
Having been caught out, Brick by Brick is now taken a far sterner approach to anyone who dares to criticise them and deliver a sub-par 1-star rating.
“The owner” of the business has posted a number of responses on their Google reviews over the past 24 hours, such as: “We have checked our databases and cannot find any record of Brick By Brick having had any dealings with you. Therefore we believe your comments do not constitute a review, which should be based on an experience you have had of our company (or questions about experiences).”
It’s worth noting that no such response has been given to the enthusiastic 5-star reviewers, many of which have been posted in the last three weeks, and who have lavished praise on Brick by Brick, without ever actually stating that they have experienced what it is like trying to pruchase a shared-ownership home from these jokers.
If they are not customers, then that would mean that their boosting of Brick by Brick’s Google ratings would also “not constitute a review”.
Those that have posted negative reviews are sternly told by BxB: “We ask you to kindly remove your opinion from Google, and if you have any questions related to your comments, we would be happy to answer them – just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
But that may not yet be the end of it.
As one eagle-eyed Inside Croydon reader pointed out, such practice is not only unethical, it has also been illegal for more than a decade.
“Any UK firm breaking the rules may face prosecution, stiff fines and possibly even jail terms for its staff,” if caught conducting this kind of fake puffery, the BBC reported in 2008. “Fake reviews are illegal in the UK under consumer protection law,” reported Metro last year.
So after being caught red-handed in this online onanism, might some Brick by Brick staff now be facing more than a slap on the wrist?
Over to you, Inspector Knacker…
Read more: Lacey could lose job over latest pitch to sell Brick by Brick
Read more: The Audit Report: Brick by Brick has paid nothing to council
Read more: Wood comes knocking with brief to investigate Brick by Brick
Read more: Even Labour councillors are turning on Brick by Brick plans
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